Spritz up your salad

Spritz up your salad

The phrase ‘salad days’ is used to refer to the days of carefree innocence and pleasure of our youth. You can actually bring back your salad days by eating various healthy salads.

Salads can be simple and easy to make with a few ingredients, or elaborate with several ingredients in addition to an elaborate dressing. For example, you can make a tropical fruit and vegetable salad using kiwi fruit, papaya, apple, orange, sweet lime, plum, capsicum, cucumber and pomegranate.
In India we’ve always had our own versions of salad.
Tadka maar keRaita, Pachadi and Kosambari, the Indian counterparts of the Western salad, are eaten as accompaniments than as a main course, and the portions are smaller. The simplest form of Indian salad is the dish comprising small strips of raw radish sold on the roadside during winter in Delhi.

Raita is curd-based. The curd is seasoned with coriander, cumin, mint, pepper, and other herbs and spices. It is prepared by frying caraway seeds (jeera) along with red mustard, and this mixture is poured into the curd. Vegetables such as cucumber and onion, and even fruits like pineapple and raw papaya are used. Raw ginger and garlic paste, green chilli paste and sometimes mustard paste are used to enrich flavour. A popular variety of raita of northern India is Boondi raita, which has tiny balls of fried gram flour in whipped curd. The dish is served chilled. Raita is also eaten with kababs, and served as a side dish with biryani.

Pachadi refers to a traditional South Indian side dish.  While in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, pachadi is a side dish similar to the north Indian raita, in Andhra Pradesh, pachadi is analogous to pickle and is preserved for several months.

In Kerala and Tamil Nadu pachadi is eaten fresh and typically made of finely chopped and boiled vegetables with coconut, green or red chillies and tempered in oil with mustard seeds, ginger and curry leaves. Curd-based pachadi can be made of any vegetable, although cucumber, squash, mango, bitter gourd or pineapple are common.

Kosambari is a salad made with lentils and seasoned with mustard seeds. The lentils generally used are split bengal gram (kadale bele in Kannada) and split black gram (uddina bele in Kannada). These salads are part of a full course meal. Kosambari is often served in temples and during poojas as prasada. It is a favourite festival side dish. A typical Mangalorean Catholic cucumber salad, called Karamb, is made with a dressing of ground coconut and mustard and garnished with green chillies.

Sauteed or sliced raw When we refer to salads, it is the western salads that we are talking about. There are salads which are a combination of two nations or cultures such as the Tex-Mex salad. Tex-Mex is a term used to describe a regional American cuisine that blends food products available in the United States and the culinary creations of Mexican-Americans influenced by the cuisines of Mexico. Tex-Mex salad is a generic name and includes Black Bean Salsa Salad, Margarita Fruit Salad, Mexican Potato Salad, Tostada Salad, Mexican Coleslaw, Taco Salad,  Santa Fe Smokin’ Rice Salad.

Another popular American salad is the Caesar’s salad. A simple combination of lettuce, creamy dressing and parmesan cheese it has become popular not only in the US, but across the world. This salad was invented in 1924 by an Italian immigrant in Mexico. Caesar Cardini, owner of a popular restaurant in Tijuana city of Mexico, concocted the salad one night for some late-partying Hollywood guests. He used romaine lettuce and just six ingredients to make a creamy dressing: garlic, olive oil, lemon, egg, worcestershire sauce and parmesan cheese.

Another popular salad is the Russian Salad. It has diced potato, vegetables and sometimes meats bound in mayonnaise. The original version of the salad was invented in the 1860s by Lucien Olivier, the chef of the Hermitage, a celebrated Moscow restaurant. It became the restaurant’s signature dish. The exact recipe — particularly that of the dressing — was a jealously guarded secret. At the turn of the 20th century, one of Olivier’s sous-chefs, Ivan Ivanov, attempted to steal the recipe. While preparing the dressing one evening alone — as was his custom — Olivier was suddenly called away on some emergency. Taking advantage of the opportunity, Ivanov sneaked into Olivier’s private kitchen to make reasonable assumptions about the recipe of Olivier’s famed dressing. Ivanov then left Olivier’s employ and went to work as a chef for Moskva, a lesser known restaurant, where he began to serve a suspiciously similar salad under a different name. Later, Ivanov sold the recipe for the salad to various publishing houses, which further contributed to its popularisation.

Another generic salad is the Coleslaw. It is a nutritious salad you can eat with any meal. The basis of any coleslaw is cabbage, though there can be other ingredients.

Dressed and divine

Salad dressing is as important as the main ingredients. Sauces for salads are often called ‘dressings’. Traditional dressings in southern Europe are vinaigrettes, while mayonnaise is predominant in eastern European countries and Russia. In  Denmark, dressings are often based on creme fraiche (sour cream). Many light edible oils are used as salad dressings, including olive oil, corn oil, soybean oil and safflower oil. In India, curd is ideally used as dressings for ‘salads’. Vinaigrette is a mixture of vinegar, wine or citrus juice and oil, often flavoured with herbs, spices, and other ingredients. The simple mixture of a good wine vinegar, good olive oil, salt, pepper, and fresh green herbs in season is a brilliant start to a great vinaigrette recipe.

You can never have too many salad ideas, but here is a simple but healthy Avocado salad which you can make easily. Take one avocado, 1/2 tbsp olive oil, juice of quarter lemon, salt and pepper, a handful of sprouts and a bit of chopped coriander. Peel and slice the avocado. In a separate bowl mix oil, lemon juice and seasoning, put the avocado and then sprinkle the sprouts. Bon Appetit!

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